What colon cancer screening is right for you?
An at-home colon cancer screening sounds like an appealing option, but are you a candidate? Matthew Nodelman, MD, explained the types of colon cancer screenings available so you can decide which one is the right option for you.
“We want to screen for colon cancer and not have to treat colon cancer. Screenings help us do this by finding and removing polyps, or bumps, from the inner lining of your intestines before they can develop into cancerous tumors,” said Dr. Nodelman.
What are the colon cancer screening options?
The colon cancer screening options available include:
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT). This is a stool test that uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool, which is a sign of colon cancer. A stick or brush is used at home to obtain a small amount of stool for a sample to share with your healthcare provider for testing.
- FIT-DNA test. This is a stool test that combines FIT with a test that detects changes in your DNA as well. For this test, you collect an entire bowel movement and send it off to a lab. This has become popular with the Cologuard Screening Test that is now available.
- Colonoscopy. This is an outpatient procedure done under anesthesia. A doctor uses a lighted, flexible tube with video, to look around the large intestine for polyps, or bumps, in the colon. If a polyp is found, it is removed and sent to the pathologist, where it will be examined under a microscope.
How do you know what screening option is right for you?
Dr. Nodelman said the easiest answer is to talk to your doctor. If you have experienced any symptoms of colon cancer, have a family history or personal history of colon cancer, or have other medical concerns, you will most likely need to have a colonoscopy. The at-home screening options are for individuals with average risk of developing colon cancer. If anything is detected in an at-home test, a colonoscopy will still need to be done for further evaluation.
“A colonoscopy is truly the gold standard test for detecting and preventing colon cancer,” said Dr. Nodelman.
It is important to remember that colorectal cancer is preventable. The American Cancer Society recommends colonoscopy screening to begin at age 45. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you should be screened earlier. “We know and can prevent this cancer. We have the tests to find these cancers before they are even cancer. Don’t wait for symptoms, get the screening. If you have symptoms, get the colonoscopy,” said Dr. Nodelman.
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